By Ashley Jacobs, Marine Spouse
Life as a military spouse can be a roller coaster. It is full of ups and downs, curves and bends. There are moments of great fear and times when pure excitement hits you so hard you think you may get sick. And when you picture a military spouse in your mind, what do you see? You likely see a young woman with children in tow. Maybe she’s running to the grocery store. Perhaps she is preparing a welcome home banner with a smile that screams pride. Now erase that image and try to picture something else: a man.
Maybe he’s taking his daughter to ballet or stirring the dinner pot with one hand and helping his son do homework with the other. There’s no doubt he’s also juggling emotions. According to the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, last year 214,098 women were serving in the United States military; that equates to just 14.6 percent. Their husbands are strong individuals. Some are stay-at-home-dads while others are just trying to get by while their wives are away. No matter their story, they deserve respect and support.
There is young 22-year-old Julian McPherson, still navigating life in general. As a young adult and proud spouse to Lance Corporal Eli McPherson, a military police officer, Julian doesn’t consider anything about his life to be unnatural or bizarre. “My life is pretty normal for being married to an active duty Marine, it doesn’t revolve around her job.” Julian McPherson admits he goes to work like any other guy and comes home to see his wife, Eli, for a few hours before she heads to work to complete her night shift. Julian is a technician for Volkswagen and the couple has no children. He and his wife have made a conscious decision to make the military lifestyle fit their own. They met at a Halloween party and haven’t looked back since. Julian says the medical benefits are wonderful and worth their sacrifices. Not to mention, he can take advantage of other benefits that come with having a military spouse. He enjoys using the archery range on base and saves money by shopping at the MCX and Commissary, “I can get a good price at the MCX and Commissary,” he said. But the monetary benefits are outweighed by the emotional ties and have become icing on the cake in the story of his military love. Julian revealed what he loves most about being married to a Marine is his wife’s kindness, “She likes to take care of me,” he said.
Life hasn’t been such a breeze for Automated Logistical Specialist Sergeant Shameka Bostic and her spouse, 32-year-old Keson Bostic. The pair celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary July 11, 2014. The milestone is worth celebrating for the two who once lived their lives as a dual-military couple. “We met while we were in the Navy. I was stationed in Japan and the Navy was starting to send females to our ship,” Keson explained. “It was raining when she got their and I asked if she needed help with her bags. The rest is history,” he said. Everyone knows a good love story starts in the rain.
The happily married couple now lives on an army post, raising their two daughters ages 4 and 13. “Our 4-year-old just finished pre-K and our new teenager is moving into eighth grade,” Keson said. He admitted, the teen years will be challenging, life as a father to two girls has been tough enough at times. Keson grew up surrounded by brothers, so playing military spouse and parenting his girls has been unique. “The greatest challenge that I’ve faced is [my wife] being deployed and having to raise daughters…dealing with girls is a whole new world.” Your heart can break for a man like Keson. He’s survived life on ship, but faces fear at home, because family is clearly important to the man. “I work at a distribution center and the hours do take away from weekday family time, but I make up for it on the weekends. Before I was working, it was more about just being the best daddy and father to our girls,” he revealed.
Exploring the uncharted territory of parenting and marriage within the military has been made easier thanks to some military programs offered through ACS (Army Community Service) and MyCAA, the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts reopened by the Department of Defense in 2010, with several key changes in eligibility and dollar amounts. “I like [the programs] because the people that work in the centers give you information that is helpful and extra info that is not normally given to us,” Keson said. Throughout his time as a service member and his more recent years spent as a military spouse, Keson has formed opinions about the way programs are run within the military. Though he has enjoyed elements of MyCAA and ACS, he’d suggest putting men in charge of a program tailored for men without excluding women, “For example, hold a how-to clinic on cars and tell us to bring our wives. It’s not for them, but they have to sit through it with us.”
Bostic may be onto something with his ideas for improving programs targeting male military spouses, but the military community is already reaching out to civilian male spouses on many levels. Through education advancement and employment placement programs as well as counseling sessions, each branch of the military aims to make life less stressful for its families. Military OneSource is a great source for anyone seeking guidance; it offers links particularly for men facing life challenges, marital problems and self-esteem issues. The team behind each article and program even shares signs and symptoms associated with high stress levels and depression in an effort to prevent stressful and scary experiences for family members. We shouldn’t get stuck focusing on stereotypes and what “should” be considered normal. Instead we do what we need to do to survive and take care of those we love. We adapt and overcome…and do it with pride.